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SONY REPORTEDLY BIDDING FOR HMV'S MAMA, AS OPCAPITA BUYS GAME UK
When HMV first announced it was considering selling its live music division late last year various music firms were tipped as possible buyers including, from the record industry side, both Sony and Warner, though it's the former that is reportedly making a serious bid to acquire the venue owner, festival promoter and artist management group.
It would be an interesting move on the Sony music company's part which - apart from its stake in the albeit significant Syco empire - has generally done less to diversify out of the traditional recorded music market than the other three majors.
It would give the world's second biggest player in music a notable presence in both the live and management domains in the UK, and could potentially form the basis of a new Sony unit that could be expanded globally, to take on Universal Music's dabblings in the live and management sectors.
Various sources reckon that, despite there being multiple bidders for HMV's profitable live music business, the flagging retail firm is only likely to make a nominal profit on the £64 million it paid to buy MAMA in January 2010. There had been early speculation HMV could make a tidy profit by reselling its two year old acquisition at this time.
HMV, of course, just wants to reduce its debt burden overall to keep nervous bankers on side as its retail business continues to slide, though - as previously noted - by selling off MAMA and possibly its stake in 7Digital, while the retailer may get a short-term boost, long term prospects remain bleak.
Arguably the most interesting development at HMV in recent years was its diversification into live and digital ventures, and if now left with just its core high street store network and lacklustre accompanying online etail operation, it's not clear how the 90 year old company will survive as conventional high street shopping dies a death. Unless selling tablets and headphones really is the goer HMV management continue to claim that it is.
Despite being decent enough not to gloat about it in public, HMV bosses had presumably hoped that their stores might get a little boost if their main rival in the video games space, Game, disappeared off the high street, which it looked like it might when the gaming retailer went into administration last month.
However, yesterday it was confirmed that OpCapita, the company that rescued the Comet chain last year, had done a deal with administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers that will keep the games retailer in business, albeit in a stripped down form. Just over half of Game's 600+ UK store network will stay open in a deal which sees money lenders write off half their debts and suppliers owed about £40 million between them receiving nothing. But the deal will keep 333 stores open and 3200 employees in work. It remains to be seen if there are any buyers for any of Game's non-UK stores.
'WEIRD AL' YANKOVIC JOINS DIGITAL ROYALTY FIGHT
The latter claim, of course, has become increasingly common of late, after FBT Productions successfully sued Universal for a higher cut of download revenue, successfully arguing that, if an artist contract doesn't explicitly state what happens with digital income, it should be treated as licensing revenue rather than record sales money. The majors have so far treated download income as the latter where contracts are ambiguous on the matter, because that way they can pay their artists a much smaller share.
Universal insists that the ruling in the FBT case does not set a precedent that applies to all artist agreements, though various artists with pre-internet contracts do not agree and are suing the major for a higher pay out. Meanwhile EMI faces litigation on this issue from Kenny Rogers, and Warner Music from Sister Sledge and Tower Of Power.
Sony Music, for its part, has offered a settlement deal on the digital royalties issue as part of a much earlier lawsuit on the matter, launched by The Allman Brothers and Cheap Trick back in 2006. That deal, which would see artists receive a 3% increase in their share of download revenue, is yet to be approved by the US courts before being put to affected artists. That Yankovic has included the download royalties issue in his new lawsuit would suggest he's not impressed with Sony's proposals.
The other aspects of the comedy singer's royalties lawsuit, actually filed by his company Ear Booker Enterprises, are also interesting. Quite how the majors share any damages won in P2P litigation with the artists whose music was actually illegally file-shared has been another contentious subject in artist and management circles for some time, as have the equity stakes the majors take in digital start-ups, which can turn into sizable pay-outs if the digital companies are bought or floated.
One of the earliest equity deals struck by the majors was with YouTube, when the record companies licensed the video-sharing site shortly before its acquisition by Google. According to Billboard, Yankovic reckons he should get a share of the profits Sony made from its YouTube stake, because when the company negotiated its deal with the then independent digital company, one of his videos - for the 2006 Chamillionaire parodying track 'White & Nerdy' - was one of the most popular bits of content on the video site. Says the lawsuit: "A portion of Sony's equity share in YouTube is directly apportionable and allocable to 'White & Nerdy' as well as other content created by Yankovic".
Sony, which last week filed papers requesting a recent digital royalties lawsuit launched by Toto be dismissed, is yet to comment on the Yankovic action.
EFF SUPPORTS CLAIM FOR ACCESS TO MEGA SERVERS
As previously reported, when the US authorities took the Mega empire offline in January as well as stopping the rogue company's customers from accessing large quantities of unlicensed music videos, movies and TV shows, they also stopped those who had used the Mega storage service to legitimately store their own content from accessing their files.
Kyle Goodwin runs a business reporting on high school sporting events in Ohio, and owns a lot of video footage from such events. As well as storing files locally, he had back ups on the Mega platform. In an unfortunate twist of fate, it seems his own local hard disk packed up at around the time Mega was forced offline, so the inaccessible Mega servers now contain the only copies of his content.
The two US-based server firms that hosted much of the Mega empire are still holding onto all the data that was previously available via the various Mega websites, but with all of the Mega company's assets frozen, they are not being paid for that storage, which is costing thousands. American prosecutors say they no longer need access to the servers, though the Mega team's lawyers have requested access, as have attorneys preparing a civil case against Mega on behalf of the big US movie studios.
But the question is - how to give those who need it, including customers like Goodwin who have legitimate content stored on the Mega platform, access to all that data. There are both cost and legal implications in doing so, and one of the server companies involved, Carpathia, reportedly filed legal papers of its own last week in a bid to get court approval for a process by which customers can retrieve their files before a to-be-agreed data deletion date.
Meanwhile the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing Goodwin and others affected by the sudden MegaUpload shutdown in January, has said: "The court can help make Mr Goodwin - an innocent party here - whole again. With government seizures growing, we're likely to see more and more cases like this, where lawful customers of a cloud service lose property in a federal copyright case. We're hoping the court will set an important precedent to protect users from overzealous government agents".
The Foundation's IP Director Corynne McSherry added: "Mr Goodwin has suffered a significant loss to his business, through no fault of his own. MegaUpload's innocent users deserve an opportunity to get their important data back before it's destroyed forever".
Elsewhere in Mega news, the controversial digital firm's founder Kim 'Dotcom' Schmitz went back to court in New Zealand last week to try to have his bail terms altered. He wants his web-access ban to be lifted, plus permission to visit an Auckland recording studio owned by Crowded House's Neil Finn where he is keen to complete his previously reported debut album, something I'm sure we'd all like to see finished and released if the wonderful 'Mega Song' is any indication of what we can expect. Local reports suggest prosecutors will only oppose the regular trips to Auckland.
As previously reported, Schmitz and three other former Mega execs are fighting extradition from New Zealand to face criminal charges relating to the Mega operation in the US. The extradition hearing is expected to take place in August.
CANADA'S JUNOS PRESENTED
Here's the main winners from Juno weekend, plus a link to the full list of winners on Toronto.com:
Single Of The Year: The Sheepdogs - I Don't Know
Artist Of The Year: Feist
SONY NOMS ANNOUNCED
And to be fair to Cotton (which isn't something we say often), at least she's not a sad old misogynist, like fellow nominees Richard Keys and Andy Gray, nominated for the talkSPORT show they launched after being fired by Sky Sports. Anyway, here are the noms for the main music show categories, while you'll find the full list of nominated programmes and stations at http://www.radioacademyawards.org/nominees/
Best Music Programme: Fearne Cotton (Radio 1), In Tune (Radio 3), In:Demand Scotland (Bauer Radio Scotland), Michael Buble (Magic 105.4), Steve Lamacq (6music).
Best Specialist Music Programme: Another Country with Ricky Ross (BBC Radio Scotland), David Rodigan (Somethin Else/Radio 2), Friday Night Is Music Night (Radio 2), Music: Response (Xfm), The Ronnie Wood Show (Somethin Else/Absolute Radio).
Best Entertainment Programme: Adam & Joe (6music), Beryl And Betty (BBC Radio Humberside), Boogie & Dingo's Big Saturday Show (Bauer Radio Scotland), Frank Skinner (Avalon/Absolute Radio), Real Radio Breakfast (Real Radio Yorkshire).
Breakfast Show (10 million plus potential audience): 5 Live Breakfast (5 Live), Heart Breakfast (Heart London), KISS Breakfast (Kiss FM), Chris Evans Breakfast Show (Radio 2), Christian O'Connell Breakfast Show (Absolute Radio).
Breakfast show (less than 10 million potential audience): Adam Tomlinson (BBC Radio York), BBC Essex Breakfast (BBC Essex), Juice FM Breakfast (Juice FM), Porridge (National Prison Radio), Real Radio Breakfast (Real Radio North East).
THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS DETAIL SECOND ALBUM
Defining the new album's general tone, Everdell and Friedman intone in perfect unison: "From the start there was a darkness that was coming out both lyrically and sonically, the songs were all heartbreak and fear of losing something special, trying to find that better light".
With a set booked at the extremely well-lit Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London on 31 May, THITH are already previewing album track 'Faded' online. You can take advantage of it below, and/or watch this 'Red Night' album trailer.
DIRTY BEACHES ANNOUNCE SPLIT COVERS SINGLE
Dirty Beaches' contribution is a dark, dour cover of Francoise Hardy's 'Tu Ne Dis Rien', while Xiu Xiu fulfil their side of the bargain with a version of Erasure's 'Always'. Which, as coincidence would have it, also happens to be the title of Xiu Xiu's new LP. Very sly.
Anyway. Listen to both covers here: soundcloud.com/polyvinyl-records/sets/xiu-xiu-dirty-beaches-split-7
BEATLES ANNIVERSARY TO BE MARKED BY NEW WEST END SHOW
The first time a West End show has been given permission to use Beatles-composed songs, 'Let It Be' will tell the story of the Fab Four's rise to fame with video clips and live performances of songs like 'A Hard Day's Night', 'Day Tripper', 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever'.
The show is being devised by a company called Rain Productions, which previously turned its Beatles tribute act into a Broadway show. The new West End musical will open on 14 Sep and run for four months.
TAME IMPALA OFFSHOOT POND TO TOUR
The band, which counts Tame Impala's Kevin Parker and Jay Watson among its core cast, will also drop in at The Great Escape (10-11 May), Liverpool Sound City (18 May), London's Field Day (2 Jun), and all three editions of triumvirate city festival Dot To Dot (2-4 Jun).
And now to the tour dates proper:
19 May: Leeds, Cockpit
OBERHOFER SETS CAMP DATE
Paul will air tracks from the album, as is out via Glassnote Records on 16 Apr, with live support from CMU approved band Fanzine, whose own first release, single 'LA', is out on 30 Apr.
LIL B PREPARED TO GIVE 'LIFE-CHANGING' NYU LECTURE
Hinting at what he might say to enlighten the young minds present at said lecture, which takes place on 11 Apr, the MC informed Fuse Magazine: "I wanna keep that super secret until we get there. But what I will tell you is that I specialise in the progression of humans. It's gonna be a real progressive talk, and when everybody leaves, their lives will be changed".
He added: "Respect to NYU because they really see what I give to the world and they really believe in me. Respect to [NYU President] John Sexton. I got swag like Sexton. Spread the positive".
And you can see Lil B promoting the positive right now in 'Ho Stop Playin', as features on his forthcoming mixtape '#1 Bitch'. Why, I can already feel my mood lifting.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
COCKROCK, Wellington Farm, Cockermouth, 20-22 Jul: Tinchy Stryder and Buzzcocks have the illustrious honour of headlining Cockermouth's principal live event this year, with The Subways, Goldie Lookin Chain, Karl Phillips & The Midnight Ramblers, Doctor & The Medics and Pikey Beatz also amongst those so far featuring on the CockRock roster. www.cockermouthrockfestival.com
EXIT FESTIVAL, Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad, Serbia, 12-15 Jul: Performing as part of an R&S Records showcase are brand new Exit entrants Lone, Teengirl Fantasy, Pariah and The Chain, who storm the fortress-based festival's 2012 line-up in line with the likes of Duran Duran and Little Dragon. Guns N Roses, New Order, Plan B, Avicii, Richie Hawtin, Gossip, Wolfmother, Azari & III and TEED make up the remaining line-up as it stands so far. www.exitfest.org
GUERNSEY FESTIVAL OF PERFORMING ARTS, The Rabbit Warren, Guernsey, 23-24 Jun: With Kaiser Chiefs at the helm, this live music jewel in the Channel Islands crown will also provide the setting for sets by Daniela Brooker, Friction, Utah Saints, Sam Wire and DJ Wrongtom, a long-time affiliate of Guerney's Old Time New Time Sounds collective, who'll appear with Deemas J and Limey Banton. This lot joins existing bookings Macy Gray, King Charles, The Selecter, Little Barrie and Kassidy. www.guernseyfestival.gg
MAGIC LOUNGEABOUT, Broughton hall, Skipton, North Yorkshire, 27-29 Jul: New additions including The Charlatans and Wave Machines serve to further up the appeal of 2012's Magic Loungeabout line-up, as also features previous announcements Chic feat Nile Rodgers, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Jenny O and, since they're seemingly omnipresent festival fixtures this year, Cashier No 9. www.themagicloungeabout.net
SHAKEDOWN, Stanmer Park, Brighton, 6 Oct: Lone headliner Dizzee Rascal is the first and foremost fixture of an otherwise empty Shakedown programme, with further bookings yet to be unveiled. www.shakedown.co.uk
BMG CONFIRMS FURTHER EXPANSION PLANS
Speaking alongside newish Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe, Hesse said BMG had acquired rights in more than one million titles since its 2008 launch, and now employed 300 people worldwide in nine countries. He said Bertelsmann's partnership with equity fund KKR in BMG remained solid, and that both partners were keen to see further growth for the rights firm.
According to Billboard, he told reporters: "The integration of major catalogues such as Bug Music and Chrysalis has resulted in substantial synergistic benefits and positive effects on earnings. In the future we intend to continue acquiring selected interesting catalogues".
He added: "Different from the recorded music market, the music rights business also profits from the digital era based on the fact that, worldwide, music has never been listened to so much as it is today".
Although BMG missed out on both the Warner and EMI publishing catalogues that went on the block last year, it's known to still be looking for other deals to expand its assets, and will likely bid for any publishing (and possibly recordings) catalogues forced to be sold by competition regulators reviewing Universal and Sony's bids to buy the EMI record labels and publishing business respectively. Indeed, as previously reported, BMG is believed to already have bid for three publishing catalogues Universal is planning to sell to help fund its EMI takeover.
BUXTON'S BUG TO BECOME TV SHOW
The eight part series will be a celebration of "innovative and groundbreaking videos", with each episode featuring the production of an original music video, guests from the world of music videos and Buxton's reliably amusing summaries of the YouTube comments some top pop promos have garnered in recent years.
Says Buxton of Bug in general, and the upcoming TV version: "I tell people that Bug is like going round to a friend's house and having them open up their laptop and show you interesting and amusing things they've found or made, except not as tedious and shit as that sounds".
THREE TAKE THAT WIVES EXPECTING BABIES
Owen is expecting his third child with wife Emma Ferguson, while Robbie Williams took to the net last week to announce he was expecting his first child with other half Ayda Field. Happy times. Especially for Owen, who seems to have repaired his marriage with Ferguson after admitting to alcohol problems and a five year affair two years ago - his happy news coming as Boyzone's Ronan Keating, also subject to affair revelations in 2010, confirmed his fourteen year marriage was over.
Anyway, lots of family affairs there then. And look, for no reason other than this story was originally going to be just about Williams, before Owen and Keating got in with their own announcements over the weekend, here's Robbie's baby statement in full, and in the capital letters he himself used:
"HEY FRIENDLIES, I'VE BEEN KEEPING A SECRET FROM YOU ALL...
ME AND AYDA ARE GOING TO BE MUMMY AND DADDY THIS YEAR!!!
WE HAD SEX! IT WORKS!
WE'VE SEEN SCANS AND CRIED...
LOOKED AT BABIES IN COMMERCIALS AND TEARED UP...
THE NURSERY IS ALREADY PLANNED...
BASICALLY I'M IN LOVE WITH A LITTLE PERSON GROWING IN MUMMY'S BELLY...
AND CAN'T WAIT TO BE A DADDY...
MUCH LOVE MUCH JOY
ROBERTO, MUM AND LITTLE BUMP".